Inglewood, California – Sam Darnold and the New York Jets could have been forgiven for forgetting the victory formation, yet everybody knew where to stand when they got the chance at SoFi Stadium.
After 51 weeks and 13 games without a win, the Jets finally earned the chance to celebrate with pride.
“It’s the greatest feeling in sports to be able to ice the game out and know we had it,” Darnold said. “It’s the best.”
The Jets (1-13) knew their 23-20 victory over the embarrassed Los Angeles Rams on Sunday was never pretty. Everybody realized it also came with a major drawback: New York is no longer in position for the top pick in the NFL draft.
Don’t try telling that to the joyful Jets who surged onto the field after the final whistle with the knowledge their names will not be attached to the ignominy of the third 0-16 season in NFL history.
Darnold passed for 207 yards in a steady performance, while Frank Gore rushed for a score that was his 100th career touchdown in the Jets’ first win since the 2019 season finale. Gore also made a decisive third-down reception with 2:12 left for the Jets, who ended the longest losing streak in franchise history with a strong start and a gritty finish.
“I’m just happy for our guys,” coach Adam Gase said. “They’ve done such a great job of how they’ve worked. They’ve been through a lot of adversity. It’s been too long for us to even remember what a win feels like, almost. It’s great to see those guys that excited.”
Gase’s club got its first win of the year only after blowing most of a 17-point lead in the second half. After a potential go-ahead touchdown for the Rams was wiped out by a penalty, forcing LA to kick a field goal, the Jets’ defense stopped the Rams again on downs near midfield with 3:54 to play.
Moments later, Darnold hit Gore with the short pass over the middle that allowed the Jets to run out the clock. It was only a 6-yard gain for Gore, who awkwardly backpedaled with the ball into first down territory It still meant a great deal to the young quarterback and his veteran running back.
“We knew we couldn’t give it back to them, and for us to be able to execute when we really needed to, that was something that obviously we haven’t done all year,” Darnold said. “To be able to execute and see it kind of come all into fruition, I think that was the biggest thing for us. It was an amazing feeling.”
With two games left, New York might have ruined its chances at the No. 1 overall pick because Jacksonville (1-13) is likely to win a tiebreaker based on strength of schedule. But possibly missing the chance to draft Clemson star Trevor Lawrence meant nothing to the players and coaches responsible for this lost season.
It certainly didn’t bother Darnold, who looked right at home in his first pro game in his native Southern California. The former USC Trojans star went 22 of 31 with a touchdown pass and no interceptions.
“It doesn’t affect us,” Darnold said. “We’re focused on one job every single week, and that’s winning a game. Anything other than that, we’re not focused on.”
Dolphins 22, Patriots 12
In Miami Garden, Florida, undrafted rookie Salvon Ahmed and veteran Matt Breida combined for 208 yards rushing Sunday to lead the Dolphins to a victory over New England, which was eliminated from playoff contention, ending its NFL-record run of 11 consecutive postseason appearances.
The Dolphins entered the game last in the league in yards per carry, and Ahmed became their first 100-yard rusher since 2018, totaling 122 yards and scoring a 2-point conversion on a trick play.
The Patriots (6-8) will finish at .500 or worse for the first time since 2000, the year they drafted Tom Brady. They fall one year short of matching the Dallas Cowboys’ NFL record of 20 consecutive winning seasons.
Buccaneers 31, Falcons 27
In Atlanta, Tom Brady did it again to the Falcons.
This time, he didn’t even need overtime.
Rallying Tampa Bay from a pair of 17-point deficits, Brady recreated his Super Bowl miracle by leading Tampa Bay on five straight scoring drives in the second half for a victory.
The stakes weren’t nearly as high and the deficit wasn’t quite as daunting, but Brady’s latest blow to Atlanta took the Bucs (9-5) to the brink of their first playoff berth since 2007.
Brady certainly has plenty of experience to fall back on when it comes to breaking Atlanta’s heart.
In the 2017 Super Bowl, Brady famously led the greatest comeback in championship game history, rallying New England from a 28-3 deficit late in the third quarter to a 34-28 overtime victory that secured his fifth of six titles with the Patriots.
Seahawks 20 Washington, 15
In Landover, Maryland, Russell Wilson and Seattle built a big lead, and the Seahawks’ suddenly opportunistic defense held on to beat Washington and clinch a playoff spot.
Wilson threw for a touchdown, Carlos Hyde ran 50 yards for a score, and Seattle (10-4) picked off Washington quarterback Dwayne Haskins twice. Shaquill Griffin and D.J. Reed each had an interception as the league’s worst passing defense played strong until the fourth quarter.
Chiefs 32, Saints 29
In New Orleans, Patrick Mahomes had his full repertoire of side-arm throws, basketball-style push passes and underhanded flips on display while passing for 254 yards and three touchdowns, and Kansas City extended its winning streak to nine games.
Cardinals 33, Eagles 26
Colts 27, Texans 20
Titans 46, Lions 25
Ravens 40, Jaguars 14
Bears 33, Vikings 27
Cowboys 41, 49ers 33
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